A man was telling his neighbor, "I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollar and it is state of the art. It is perfect." "Really," answered the neighbor. "What kind is it?" "Twelve thirty."

Our Gospel this weekend is a story about a request for a man who cannot ask, a healing for a man who cannot hear and an empowering of a man who cannot speak. In every society, hearing and speaking are the basis of all relationships. They are the ways we normally communicate.

Not one of us here would like to be deaf because a deaf person is doomed literally to a life of silence. He is confined to a life of isolation and exclusion. He has no use for phones and radios. He cannot hear the pleasant things we hear—the world of music, the sounds of nature, the laughter of children.

Helen Keller was both blind and deaf, and when she was asked which handicap caused her the greater difficulty, her answer was startling: “Being deaf is a greater handicap than being blind, because people are patient and kind to the blind, but they are rude and cruel to the deaf.”

The man they brought before Jesus was not just deaf. He was also mute. His friends were good enough to speak for him. And here we see what happens when we are near Jesus, we are taught to speak up and speak out for those whose voices are silenced.

“Ephphatha!” the Aramaic word for be opened! Jesus said to the deaf mute. His words of command, just like when the Father created the world, restored completely the man. Now he could hear the sounds of people astonished to see the miracle. Now he could communicate his thoughts. Now he could thank Jesus and follow Him. And perhaps, now he could finally say to his mother, “I love you, Mom, but I really don’t like to eat broccoli.”

We have to be careful not to become spiritually deaf and mute. When we close our ears to God and do not listen to what He wants us to do, we are spiritually deaf. When we do not speak up for God when we have the opportunity and obligation to do so, we are spiritually mute.

Spiritual mutes are not only those who do not talk about our Lord, but they are also the blabbermouths of our society. The spiritual mutes in our land are those who like to gossip or criticize. The good is muted by their evil actions. The goodness of God’s creation is muted by their vile intentions.

Some of us remain deaf and mute in our hearts because we are afraid of being hurt. Some of us want to be deaf and mute in our thoughts because we do not want to take a risk. Some of us choose to be deaf and mute in our actions because we do not want to be bothered.

A need exists among us to open ourselves to our loving God. How different life would be if we help Jesus in opening the eyes and ears of people. How different our lives would be if we open our hearts to what the good Lord wants us to do. How different life would be if we, the people he loved and died for, continually reach out to others.

We are who we are now because of the openness of God. Had God the Father not opened the heavens and risked sending His son to us, we would still be wallowing in our wretched misery. Had Jesus not opened Himself to us, we would still be locked in our sinful world, not hearing the truth about God, not speaking the message of His mission. And if the Holy Spirit were not continually opening us for the mission of the Church and our times, we would still be divided and fragmented.

What Jesus did to the deaf mute is the miracle we all need, which is waiting to happen to each one of us. Just be open. Ephphatha. And the miracle will happen.

6 September 2009

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